PM makes surprise visit to deep South

Peace talks failing, say Democrats

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited the deep South Sunday as her critics called on the government to reconsider holding peace talks with the southern insurgents.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attended the funeral rites of Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat and assistant governor Chaovalit Chairuek in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on Sunday after visiting Yala province. (Post Today photo)

The prime minister's surprise visit came amid increased violence in the region, marked by the fatal roadside bomb attack on the car of Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat in Bannang Sata on Friday.

Mr Issara's assistant Chaovalit Chairuek was also killed in the attack while their driver, Satorpa Jehloh, was critically injured.

Immediately upon her arrival in Yala, Ms Yingluck travelled to the provincial hospital to visit wounded officials, troops and Mr Satorpa who remains unconscious at an intensive care unit.

She then went to Wat Phramahathat Voramahaviharn in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Muang district to attend the funeral rite for Issara.

The cremation of the late deputy governor will be held on April 27.

Ms Yingluck then attended the funeral rite for Chavalit at Wat Rangsri Buranaram in Chawang district of Nakhon Si Thammarat. The cremation of the late assistant governor will be held next Saturday.

Ms Yingluck said the recent spate of violence in the far South had nothing to do with the peace talks with rebel groups, which were still at the initial stage.

However, the Democrat Party and a senator saidSunday the government should reconsider its plan to hold peace talks with representatives of southern insurgents as the violence in the deep South shows no sign of abating.

Democrat list MP Ong-art Klampaibul urged the government to review the peace talks.

Despite the talks having started, the violence has continued to escalate for the past month with high-ranking local officials increasingly becoming targets of insurgent attacks, he said.

Sunday, two rangers were killed and at least six others - two rangers and four police - were wounded in attacks in Narathiwat. The headless body of a rubber tapper was also found in Yala's Than To district.

Mr Ong-art said he was uncertain if the insurgent representatives who entered the peace talks with Thai authorities represent all the insurgent groups as a whole, considering the recent escalation of violence.

Mr Ong-art said the prime minister should find the right man to handle the southern unrest.

Ms Yingluck has assigned Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who is in charge of security operations in the deep South, and Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan to urgently visit the region to oversee measures to solve the southern conflict. But it remains unclear as to when the ministers will begin to make a serious effort to tackle the southern problem, Mr Ong-art said.

If the prime minister cannot find the right person, she should step in to take charge herself, he said.

Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, chairman of a Senate committee on compensation for people affected by the southern violence, said he believed the recent increase in the violence was linked to the peace talks.

Some separatist militants who oppose the peace process were trying to intensify violence to undermine the initiative, he said. The surge in violence was "a side-effect" resulting from the government's hasty move to hold the talks.

The government should review the talks and give a guarantee that civilians and officials in the region are less vulnerable to attacks.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Sunday he had ordered an investigation into whether some state officials were involved in the Friday bombing that killed the Yala deputy governor and the assistant governor.

Investigators have said they suspect "moles" may have provided insurgents with information about the victims' travel schedule.

Yingluck attends Yala aftermath: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits a wounded soldier at Yala Regional Hospital Sunday during her visit to the South before attending the funeral rites of Yala deputy governor Issara Thongthawat and assistant governor Chaovalit Chairuek in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. (Reuters photo)

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